South America developing Amazon policy

BRASILIA, Brazil Brazil and Venezuela signed agreement last week to cooperate in their shared portion of the Amazon, and Strategic Planning Minister Roberto Mangabeira Unger said it was just the first step toward bringing in other Amazon countries.

"We share the Amazon with our South American neighbors and we understand that a program of sustainable development for the Amazon should eventually become a South American program, not just a Brazilian program," Unger said.

The Amazon rain forest extends into nine South American nations, though about 63 percent is in Brazil.

Unger said such programs promise "to produce great benefits to the world, but cost is born by us."

He said Brazil is looking for ways that would let other countries "help pay for initiatives that benefit the whole of humanity," but ruled out giving them any say in how such money is spent.

"We are not prepared to share decisions as to what to do," he said.

Unger plans to travel to Europe next week to discuss international support.

Unger said the agreement with Venezuela will lead to joint initiatives on intellectual property, education, agriculture, technology and the environment through a bi-national agency based in Santa Elena da Uairen, Venezuela.

Unger said Brazil also is working to regulate land ownership in the Amazon region, where land grabbing is rife and to reduce deforestation that has been rising in recent months.

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